Orlando’s Mad Cow Theatre to take final bow as city finalizes loan forgiveness agreement

Orlando City Council to approve forbearance agreement if Church Street theatre vacates space by May 2022

ORLANDO, Fla. – Mad Cow Theatre is leaving the building and getting ready to take a final bow come May 2022.

The Orlando City Council will meet Monday to approve the temporary lease relief agreement between the city, community redevelopment agency and Church Street staple, pending the theatre vacating the retail space by May 31.

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“We’re almost 25 years old, this is the tenth space that we’ve been in. Space is one of the most difficult challenges for arts organizations,” said Mitzi Maxwell, executive director of Mad Cow Theatre.

The forbearance settlement agreement proposes to forgive the Orlando theatre’s unpaid monthly charges and interest accumulated over the past 60 months, according to the city agenda.

City officials said under this agreement, the city would forgive $121,742.40 of the theatre’s sublease and $426,592.74 of its interest if the renters vacate the space by the designated date. If not, the city’s attorney’s office can “file for eviction and recovery of the amounts owed,” the agenda reads.

“Mad Cow put over $1.2 million into the space. The city also put money in, but we were not responsible for that money and if you check with the city they will confirm that.... We do not believe we owe money,” Maxwell said.

This comes after Mad Cow Theatre entered into a funding agreement with Orlando’s CRA back in 2011 and failed to pay back a portion of the money the agency loaned, equal to the amount of $480,000 plus 5% interest.

On Oct. 20 2021, the city sent a notice to the theatre “providing them 10 days to come into compliance with their lease agreement,” Samantha Holsten, a City of Orlando spokeswoman, said in an email.

After failing to make the payment, a Termination of Lease and Equipment Agreement was issued to Mad Cow management on Nov. 2.

Shortly after Mad Cow Theatre’s lease termination, the city expressed the possibility of Orlando Fringe taking over the space.

“The city has begun initial discussions with Orlando Fringe to enter into a new lease agreement in the theater that will allow them to program and operate the theater space, making it available to a diverse variety of artists and arts organizations,” Holsten said. “One of the highest priorities of the city’s shared vision for downtown Orlando is to have a strong presence of cultural and arts amenities within the urban core, as such, we look forward to continuing our efforts through partnerships with our local arts groups to enhance and support our local arts community and offer diverse arts experiences.”

Maxwell is awaiting Monday’s meeting before she says for sure if Mad Cow is leaving in May.

“I look forward to them thoughtfully considering what the proposal is,” she said. “We’re not happy about leaving and at the same time we recognize the need to look forward, and so of course we’re making plans and have made plans with regard to our future.”

But whatever unfolds in the “David and Goliath story,” Maxwell said she knows the theatre’s future is bright.

“That’s not in question because the theatre has many donors and patrons and artists—they’re very supportive of the work that gets done,” she said.

About the Authors:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.